==Early life and consecration as patriarch==
John was born in Amathus on Cyprus c. 550 to the patrician Epiphanius, a governor of the island. He married and had children, but was a widower when he was called to become patriarch of Alexandria on the recommendation of his friend, the city's imperial prefect Nicetas. The [[Council of Chalcedon|Chalcedonian]] see of Alexandria had been vacant since the death in 609 of Theodore during the capture of the city by Nicetas. In 611 John assumed the throne, becoming the fifth Chalcedonian bishop of Alexandria to bear that name.
==Spiritual activity and relations to Non-Chalcedonians==
John took care of spiritual as well as bodily nourishment and in meals and other gatherings in the patriarchal palace would only converse on the Scriptures or other spiritual topics. He also patronized the learned wanderers St. [[Sophronius of Jerusalem|Sophronius]], future patriarch of Jerusalem, and [[John Moschus]], author of the ''[[Leimonarion]]'' (Spiritual Meadow).
John has been considered an example of religious tolerance during the divisive Christological disputes of Late Antiquity, but the evidence for this is mostly negative, as he is not presented in his Life as using violence to impose Chalcedonian Orthodoxy. It is clear from his Life that he was a firm supporter of Chalcedonian doctrine and that he used the theological ability of men such as Sophronius and John Moschus to defend and promote it. As a result of his efforts the number of Chalcedonian churches in the city increased ten-fold during his reign, according to his Life.
==Departure from Alexandria and death==
John voiced opposition to Heraclius' early attempts at promoting [[monoenergism]] as a compromise solution to the schism over Chalcedon, but did not participate in the major controversies that soon developed. He was forced to flee Alexandria by the Persian invasion of Egypt in 619. Returning to Cyprus, he died soon thereafter. A few years later much of John's work of reconciliation with the Non-Chalcedonians of Egypt was undone by the violent persecution instituted by Cyrus, who combined both imperial and ecclesiastical authority as dual prefect and patriarch of Alexandria.
*The Life by Leontius along with several interpolations from other sources can be found in Dawes and Baynes, ''Three Byzantine Saints'' (Crestwood, NY: 1977).
*A good recent summary can be found in the new Synaxarion written by Hieromonk Macarius of [[Simonopetra Monastery (Athos)|Simonopetra]], Christopher Hookway (trans.) ''The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church: Volume 2: November, December'' (Ormylia Greece 1999) under the entry for November 12.
*John's relations with non-Chalcedonians are treated briefly in John Meyendorff ''Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions: The Church 450-680 A.D.'' (Crestwood NY 1989). Meyendorff's statement that John is venerated as a saint by the Coptic and Ethiopian Churches seems to be a confusion with John IV, Coptic Pope of Alexandria of the late 7th century, also surnamed the "Merciful" but presented as a staunch opponent of Chalcedonian Christology (see the ''Coptic Encyclopedia'').
*The most recent scholarly study of [[Leontius of Neapolis]], the author of the main Life of John, is Vincent Deroche, ''Études sur Léontios de Néapolis,'' (Uppsala 1995).
*Online, entries can be found on Wikipedia at [[Wikipedia:St. John the Merciful|St. John the Merciful]] and on the Catholic Encyclopedia under [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08486a.htm St. John the Almsgiver].
[[Category:Patriarchs of Alexandria]]